With the new Super League season set to begin next month, Aaron Sutcliffe predicts the final league table, Grand Final winner, Challenge Cup winner and individual award winners.
1. Wigan Warriors
Wigan will be hurting heading into the 2021 Super League season having lost last year’s Grand Final in the dying moments, and will be determined to end Saints recent dominance in the competition.
The Warriors have brought back John Bateman who will fill the void left by the club’s stalwart captain Sean O’Loughlin, and have added Jai Field to an already exciting squad that is looking to build on last year’s League Leaders’ Shield success.
Keeping O’Loughlin on in a coaching capacity could prove to be a masterstroke, and his experience will be invaluable to Adrian Lam as his side aim to go one better than they did last year.
Naturally, Wigan fans may be concerned about the fitness of their wingers with Liam Marshall likely to be out for much of the season, but should both Dom Manfredi and Jake Bibby be available throughout the campaign the Warriors should be the team beat this year.
John Bateman. The England and Great Britain international was a huge hit in the NRL and looks a better player than he was when he left the DW Stadium in 2018. Should he remain fit, the 27-year-old should be a strong contender for the Man of Steel award and be a leader for the Warriors on the pitch.
2. St Helens
St Helens would become only the second team in the Super League era to win three consecutive Grand Finals should they triumph in 2021, which I feel is a step too far for Kristian Woolf’s side.
After a dominant 2019 campaign, Saints showed some vulnerability last season and were pushed all the way to claim their eighth Super League title.
The Merseyside club have made three key recruits from the NRL, signing Joel Thompson, Agnatius Paasi and Sione Mata’utia. Their success on the pitch could come down to how well their new additions adapt to Super League.
James Roby. The 35-year-old showed no signs of slowing down last season, winning the Harry Sunderland Trophy for his man of the match performance in the Grand Final against Wigan. Keeping him fit and on the pitch should lead to another successful season for Saints.
3. Warrington Wolves
Will it be Warrington’s year? Wire have a star-studded squad, but have lacked togetherness as a team over the last few seasons. With coach Steve Price departing at the end of the campaign, the club’s supporters have a right to be concerned with regards to the long-term planning at the club.
Their season is likely to come down to how much quality and game time they can get out of superstar signing Greg Inglis, with the 34-year-old having not played competitive rugby league for almost two years since retiring with knee and shoulder injuries.
That said, despite losing Ben Murdoch-Masila to the NRL, the Wire need to get the best out of their other star players such as Josh Charnley, Blake Austin and Gareth Widdop if they are to finally win a Grand Final.
Greg Inglis. Simply put, if G.I. is at his best then I can’t see many teams being able to stop him. I’m sure nearly every rugby league fan is rooting for his comeback to be a success, none more so than his coach Steve Price. Only time will tell whether his body is capable of playing high quality rugby again.
4. Leeds Rhinos
Leeds would have been delighted to win last season’s Challenge Cup which brought an end to their three-year run without a trophy, and look to be a building a promising side under coach Richard Agar.
Their squad has a good blend of youth and experience. The signing of Zane Tetevano, who has played in two NRL Grand Finals, should add some more solidity to their squad and allow their more youthful backs to express themselves.
With Luke Gale expected to miss the opening weeks of the season, Leeds might be slow out of the blocks, but if they can get the best out of Robert Lui this term, the Rhinos should be in the mix for Old Trafford glory at the end of the campaign.
Konrad Hurrell. The Tongan international is unstoppable in the centres on his day, and is part of the reason Ash Handley has scored so many tries over the last couple of seasons.